How do the best sprinters in the world run so fast? How do marathoners maintain their pace for hours? The secret: they don’t just run every day. If you want to be a good runner, you need to step off the track and into the weight room.
Lifting weights and doing strength exercises have many benefits that will enhance your running performance. Research has shown that strength training can help the body use oxygen more efficiently, which renders greater speed and endurance. It’s equally as important however, that runners build muscle to prevent injury. A combination of heavy lifts and functional strength training can improve a runner’s stamina and quickness as well as make them less prone to injury.
Doing heavy lifts don’t make runners bulky; they make them more light on their feet. Becoming a faster runner requires proper form, which originates in the legs, core and arms. Heavy lifts can target these areas to give you a more explosive stride and better balance. Exercises like kettlebell squats and box step-ups will strengthen and stabilize your lower body, helping you achieve a more forceful stride, while upper-body lifts will give you strong arms and shoulders, allowing you to maintain your pace. But targeting these areas alone will not improve your running performance.
Runners frequently suffer injury since the activity is primarily cardiovascular, not strength building. To prevent injury, runners need to do functional strength training, which mimics the motions we do in everyday life to strengthen those joints that we use repetitively. When you run, you repeat the same movement over and over again, which can have adverse effects on your joints. Functional training allows runners to focus on joints like the hip flexor muscles, which help you maintain your pace and stride. Back and hip extensions using a stability ball are examples of great multi-joint, functional training workouts that will keep you healthy and injury free.
If you’re not a competitive runner, but run for physical fitness, it’s also necessary that you lift weights in order to achieve your goals. Adding a strength-training component to your running routine can help you lose weight by boosting your metabolism and fat-burning hormones. So even if you’re not racing in the Olympics, strength training is absolutely essential for any runner. It’s time to take a break from the running trails and head to the gym today.